Perhaps the largest Christmas event in Blount County was the 8th Annual Living Nativity created by First Baptist Church of Maryville on Dec. 6 and 7 in the West Theater in Greenbelt Park near the Courthouse. The performance, narrated live, drew more than 1,500 spectators who viewed the 30-minute presentation in groups of 150.
Cast members performed six times each night, quite a feat for the 50 actors and 25-35 additional crew members. Included in the show were three camels, five sheep and a burro named Mary, as well as King Herod, a score of angels, camel handlers, a crowd of shepherds, wise men, and of course Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
Volunteers distributed coffee, hot chocolate and desserts to waiting visitors, who were so many that the “Bethlehem village” attraction of recent years had to be eliminated just to make room for the crowd. The event was organized by Minister of Missions Chuck O’Connor, who started the tradition when he came to First Baptist of Maryville.
This marks O’Connor’s 29th year of organizing Living Nativities at three different churches. His passion for the productions began when he saw one as a young boy and encouraged his church to begin the ministry themselves. O’Connor said he and others at the church view the nativity as a gift to the community. Even with an $8,000 price tag for the event, which comes at a financially difficult time, O’Connor said the church members feel it is an important ministry. For more information about First Baptist of Maryville, call 865-982-5531.